Musings on Hyboria's cultural level

Maximo

Mongoose
I've been pondering about this for a while.

The game sets all PCs as people who know 1 language for level and then a few more. However, I don't think a Zamorian player should be able to WRITE poetry in Nemedian, Khitan and Old Stygian. Crude understanding of other languages is possible, as Conan showed, yet Conan isn't what I would call "generic" Hyborian Age person.

And what about the commoners who made up most of Hyborian Age population? I think most should be iliterate, as in Real Life Dark Age. Most peasants would have higher chances to be attacked by a demon than those of finding a book.

Yes, books should be true treasures... for the few enlightened scholars who understood their value. Life is so cheap in most corners of Hyboria that people have enough concerns with staying alive to care about learning history or maths (except for counting dead foes).

I try to remember quotes from Howard where you get to hear about written symbols, but I can't come with any which isn't related to some sort of sorcery (the Book of Skelos) or a intellectual elite (Nemedian scholars).

Scholar should be the rarest of current classes, since they are feared and shunned people. They are in a quest for knowledge, and know that knowledge is power, and this detaches them from most Hyborians. A scholar knowing a lot of languages doesn't stick as wrong. Also, a high born noble if so inclined could get the best education available in his country.

In another related matter, what kind of cultural achievements do you think Hyborians made? Did they have sewers on their cities? Messantias sourcebook says so, though Messantia is perhaps one of the richest cities in the world.
What did they know of physics? Were any maths available during this age?

What was lost with the Cataclism which caused Hyboria to sink?

What do you think?
 

Bregales

Mongoose
Language and writing have been talked about several times in different threads. The King Arthur Pendragon rpg makes very great distinctions between speaking and reading a language, but most other games don't. For reading & writing, several Conan stories go into the diversity of language and reading them.

As for technology and physics, that's up to individual GMs. You brought up several good examples. Look also at "Rogues in the House", "Red Nails" and that story about the Meruvians (I forget the name right now, I'll blame it on the fever I seem to be developing :roll: ) pastiched in Conan (the Ace/Lancer series).
 
Maximo said:
And what about the commoners who made up most of Hyborian Age population? I think most should be iliterate, as in Real Life Dark Age.

Which is why the commoner NPC class has "Illiterate" as an 'ability' in the core rules (it is located in the bestiary).

Maximo said:
In another related matter, what kind of cultural achievements do you think Hyborians made? Did they have sewers on their cities? Messantias sourcebook says so, though Messantia is perhaps one of the richest cities in the world.
What did they know of physics? Were any maths available during this age?

What do you think?

That is covered well in an article found in "The Blade of Conan." I am at work, so I will edit this later with the exact name of the article and the author.
 

Yogah of Yag

Mongoose
VincentDarlage said:
Maximo said:
And what about the commoners who made up most of Hyborian Age population? I think most should be iliterate, as in Real Life Dark Age.

Which is why the commoner NPC class has "Illiterate" as an 'ability' in the core rules (it is located in the bestiary).

Maximo said:
In another related matter, what kind of cultural achievements do you think Hyborians made? Did they have sewers on their cities? Messantias sourcebook says so, though Messantia is perhaps one of the richest cities in the world.
What did they know of physics? Were any maths available during this age?

What do you think?

That is covered well in an article found in "The Blade of Conan." I am at work, so I will edit this later with the exact name of the article and the author.
I have only the Pocket Rules, and was recently wondering where the info for commoners was. Could some one post the data on commoners if this is acceptable to Mongoose?

In my campaign there are dialects of various Hyborian tongues which adds to the possible misunderstandings, and affects the hard mechanics (crunch) of the game, e.g. +/- modifiers to Diplomacy, Perform (any oral) if the speaker is using a dialect significantly different than the dialect of the listener. For example, I distinguish between geographical/synchronic differences (Northern Turanian vs. Southern Turanian, or Northern Khitan from Southern, etc.) and historical/diachronic differences ("modern" Stygian, from Ancient Stygian).
Such subtle differences in speech may lead to more arguments...and more blood-letting. :twisted:
More to follow later...
 

Yogah of Yag

Mongoose
"TONGUES OF HYBORIA: A Companion to The Road of Kings."

THE FLUFF:

Dialects of Cimmeria:
• Northern
* Northwestern (Canach)
* North Central (Ice Leopards)
* Northeastern (settlements in the vicinity of Ben Morgh)

• Eastern (Raeda)

• Western (Galla, Darkwolf)

• Southern (Murrogh)

• Central (Tunog, Diarmaid)

• Goralian (various peoples dwelling in the Goralian Hills. Their dialect is akin to that spoken in the unnamed hills just west of the Field of Chiefs.)

• Eiglophian (A minute number of settlements in the lofty mountains speak this, an obscure and truly unusual dialect being an uneasy fusion between Northern Cimmerian and the tongue of the Southern Vanir [*Vanamál? --term mine.].)

THE CRUNCH:

* No bonus nor penalty is exacted if the difference between dialects is nil or very slight.
* a -2 penalty is imposed on language-oriented skill checks if the distance between the dialects is considerable. [Example: Canach speaker, Darkwolf listener]
* a -4 penalty (does not stack with above) is imposed on language-oriented skill checks if the distance is very great. [Example: Canach speaker, Raeda listener]


[I have omitted numerous Cimmerian tribes of my own fabrication to prevent misunderstandings.]

It is common knowledge that various Native American tribes were able to communicate despite linguistic differences by means of a relatively common form of sign language. Perhaps this can be proposed as a new skill for use by PCs: Sign Language (INT). In this way any differences and resultant penalties may be avoided or negated in the game mechanics.

Nomadic peoples (as opposed to the relatively sedentary) may not have such distinctions in speech. For example, these additional dialect rules may not necessarily apply to migratory, nomadic Shemites, Turanians, or Hyrkanians.

Furthermore, large cities composed of massive numbers of sedentary populations will have various urban dialects (cf. London, New York) of the same language, in addition to further complications arising from a multitude of languages spoken in the same metropolitan area.

(My background is in Linguistics and Philology, so I naturally delight in these dry matters. These issues were of more interest to Dr. Tolkien, of course. For those who consider this discussion soporific, my profuse--if belated--apologies.)
 

Yogah of Yag

Mongoose
"TONGUES OF HYBORIA: A Companion to The Road of Kings."

Dialects of Stygian

• Common Stygian (settlements along the southern bank of the River Styx)
* Upper Class Common Stygian (spoken by the small number of elite in Stygia, esp. Nobles, Scholars, High-Ranking Military Personnel, etc.)
* Lower Class Common Stygian (spoken by the overwhelming majority of the impoverished and downtrodden masses.)
• Eastern, or Taian Stygian (spoken in the city Harakht, and to a lesser extent along the Ellobolu.)
• Bakhr Stygian (settlements on the banks of the River Bakhr, and cities nearby as Luxur and Nebthu*.)
• Coastal Stygian (spoken in settlements on the western coast, including the city Khemi.)
• Jeluba Stygian (spoken in the region adjoining the River Jeluba in the southeast.)
• Desert Stygian (spoken by nomadic and/or sedentary peoples of the interior.)
• Ancient Stygian (historical stages "Old Kingdom", "Middle Kingdom", and "New Kingdom", as well as being further sub-divided into the written forms Formal [very realistic, carefully rendered characters; easiest to read], Hieratic [an elegant, cursive form; can be easy or difficult to read, depending on the hand], and Demotic [highly abbreviated and stylized form; unexceptionally difficult to read]).

[Some documents of extreme antiquity in Stygian character may be not in Stygian language itself, but in another tongue as Acheronian, Demonic, etc. ???]

* Since Nebthu and Pteion are described as ruined (RoK, p. 125), there may not be any speakers there at all! :?

As some Stygian cities are described as "closed", intercourse between these peoples may have been limited, and therefore differences in dialects all the more pronounced.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
QUERY: is the Velusia mentioned on p. 125 a typo or the same as the ancient Thurian land called Valusia?
 

Boreas

Mongoose
I'm all for having PC's be able to learn to speak a new language as
per the rules, however, if they want to read/write it, then skill points
must be spent.

If a PC has not learnt to read a language they may make an Int
check to see if they can decipher something, & appropriate DC's
are set depending on the read & time 'in-country' etc.

Write is a totally different kettle of fish & is even harder than read.
 

Maximo

Mongoose
VincentDarlage wrote:
Which is why the commoner NPC class has "Illiterate" as an 'ability' in the core rules (it is located in the bestiary).
:oops: Sorry, I should have remarked I think commoners should be illiterate with no option to spend skill points to get rid of their ignorance.

Yogah of Yag wrote:
* No bonus nor penalty is exacted if the difference between dialects is nil or very slight.
* a -2 penalty is imposed on language-oriented skill checks if the distance between the dialects is considerable. [Example: Canach speaker, Darkwolf listener]
* a -4 penalty (does not stack with above) is imposed on language-oriented skill checks if the distance is very great. [Example: Canach speaker, Raeda listener]

Very interesting rulings (not to mention the fluff part). Have no time to comment it properly at the moment, will go on later.

For those who consider this discussion soporific, my profuse--if belated--apologies.

As for me, you can go on as long as you wish. I always find interesting to know the opinion of RL experts, it is terrific for giving coherence to any setting.

Boreas wrote:
I'm all for having PC's be able to learn to speak a new language as
per the rules, however, if they want to read/write it, then skill points
must be spent.

Neat rulings, i like them, and most likely I'll try to use them with those Yogah provided. Will comment on it later.
 

Maximo

Mongoose
Yogah,

I like a lot the idea of detailing which dialects are spoken in Hyboria. Next time I describe a character I have a new way to make him unique ("he speaks in a hissing Bakhr Stygian"). Though PCs won't know even the names of the different dialects unless they are accomplished scholars, of course, they will be able to notice that there's something different about his accent. It adds to credibility (no Common language nor things like that).

Perhaps (for game balance issues) I would only consider a -2 penalty. Hmm, if a dialect is so different as to cause a -4, perhaps it should be picked in a different language/dialect slot...

Boreas,
How many points does it cost to learn to read/write? Would you allow Decipher Script checks instead of Int checks?
Perhaps it could be allowed that a non-native player who stays in a country for a long time (years) and knows the spoken language ends up learning how to write (without paying points, just due to roleplaying issues).
 

Mythos

Mongoose
Maximo said:
In another related matter, what kind of cultural achievements do you think Hyborians made? Did they have sewers on their cities? Messantias sourcebook says so, though Messantia is perhaps one of the richest cities in the world.
What did they know of physics? Were any maths available during this age?

What was lost with the Cataclism which caused Hyboria to sink?

What do you think?
These are questions I've wondered about myself. REH only gave us what information was required in order to move his stories along and little beyond that. However, if you do a careful reading of the material there are several things that do come to light.

Most of the larger cities are descriped as having domes and large towers as part of their make up. Since we know that magic was a limited and somewhat hidden skill during the life of Conan, it would be a fair guess to say that those buildings were made using the same techniques used by actual cultures. This means that the ability to cut, dress, haul, lift and mount these stones in position was known by the people of the Hyborian Age. That means knowledge in the use of pullies, scafolds, load bearing designs, stone masonary, and basic architectural design.
In one game that I ran, during the downtime, a PC made some extra money by being a worker on a building crew. With a STR 17 he was usually the one who did most of the heavy lifting and grunting.

As for the sewers. Again, I think that this is something that would be found in most of the larger cities. But not necessarily in all parts of the city. The stories in Zamora mention Conan having to avoid pools of filth in the allies of the Maul and the thievies sections. Yet in The Tower of the Elephant when Conan moves closer to the tower we are told that the nature of the city changes to a more open area and no such mention of open cess pools are made. Much like classical cities, and some modern ones, I belive that the sewers are for the most part only to be found in those areas of the city where the monied individuals live. Preists and nobles don't want to have to deal with that smell.

Right now I've been up some 20 plus hours. After I get some sleep I can get into some more detail about this.
 

Maximo

Mongoose
Thanks, Mythos!

I had overlooked most of these references (domes, for example; I should have figured they would have pretty good building skills if they were able to make them).

In one game that I ran, during the downtime, a PC made some extra money by being a worker on a building crew. With a STR 17 he was usually the one who did most of the heavy lifting and grunting.

A good hook to give him reasons to adventure...

I belive that the sewers are for the most part only to be found in those areas of the city where the monied individuals live. Preists and nobles don't want to have to deal with that smell.

I didn't consider cities having sewers in some places only, but this idea seems to have a lot of sense. And I really love playing the differences in the social ladder in Hyboria. It usually makes my barbarian PCs angry, which is good for bussiness :twisted:

Right now I've been up some 20 plus hours. After I get some sleep I can get into some more detail about this.

Excellent!

The more ideas and different views on this topic, the better!
 
Hyboria is unique in that there is no 'standard' cultural level- even within the same city. Stone Age cultures like the Cimmerians and the Picts live in barbariac tribes bordering advanced feudal cultures like Aquilonia and the decadent remanants of more advanced cultures like Stygia and Zamoria and the ruins of even more advanced past civilization like Archeron and Atlantis. The Changa live in opulant palaces while their Kushite slaves live in primitive huts. Quasi-immrtal wizard kings rule iron handed over small cities unknown to the majority of the world. This interaction drives a lot of the stories in Hyboria- how these differences affect how the people of the world see each other. Mostly this consists of the barbarian coveting the wealth of the more advanced civilizations and then taking it, but I digress. 8)
 

Yogah of Yag

Mongoose
Raven Blackwell said:
Hyboria is unique in that there is no 'standard' cultural level- even within the same city. Stone Age cultures like the Cimmerians and the Picts live in barbariac tribes bordering advanced feudal cultures like Aquilonia and the decadent remanants of more advanced cultures like Stygia and Zamoria and the ruins of even more advanced past civilization like Archeron and Atlantis. The Changa live in opulant palaces while their Kushite slaves live in primitive huts. Quasi-immrtal wizard kings rule iron handed over small cities unknown to the majority of the world. This interaction drives a lot of the stories in Hyboria- how these differences affect how the people of the world see each other. Mostly this consists of the barbarian coveting the wealth of the more advanced civilizations and then taking it, but I digress. 8)

Very well put!
 
You all have PCs with characters that actually want to read anything in your campaigns?

Hmm, my PCs must be taking the "Barbarian" aspect of Conan to an extreme.
:D
 

Yogah of Yag

Mongoose
Hyborian Apeman: My PC likes to have a cup of coffee and read the morning Cimmerian Times, before lopping off a few heads at the ol' office! :shock: :D

If your Stygian scholar is a finicky eater, he may want to read the nutritional info on his box of toasted, frosted what-nots. :)

----------
I post a revision to the above suggested rules, dropping the penalties down a bit. This should do for the time being:

THE CRUNCH:

* No bonus nor penalty is exacted if the difference between dialects is nil or very slight.
* a -1 penalty is imposed on language-oriented skill checks if the distance between the dialects is considerable. [Example: Canach speaker, Darkwolf listener]
* a -2 penalty (does not stack with above) is imposed on language-oriented skill checks if the distance is very great. [Example: Canach speaker, Raeda listener]
 

Zul Daire

Mongoose
Raven Blackwell said:
decadent remanants of more advanced cultures 8)

Reread Queen of the Black Coast and Xuthol after Dusk ( I think) and it made me start thinking of the lost dreaming people in the ancient green city and how advanced they are culturally but lazy and dependent upon the lotus wine.

THe Stygian Noble woman Conan encouters talks of these people creating food and the RPG speaks this civilization fabricating green gems that glow when rubbed and calls them scientists. I always thought this was an unusual reference though the tale goes no further to explain save perhaps in other stories.

I love the old calssic DnD modules and enevitably find a way to perhaps convert it to Conan. I ran "The Lost City", several years ago before the latest RPG, in a Conan campaign once with some changes to suit the world. A short time later I read Xuthol after Dusk for the first time and thought there were similarities between the drug enduced/ addicted citizens and consequences it had on their diminishing civilization.

Anyone got any thoughts on these scientist? Is it just another name for Scholar?
 

Boreas

Mongoose
Maximo - thanks for the nice words!

Ummm, I'm good with PC's (or NPC's for that matter) picking up more than
just 'a few spoken words' if they hang around in any one area long enough,
& would tend to 'create' this via ongoing description of various events during
gameplay.

If, however, somebody wishes to learn more than speaking in the short term,
I'll use the 2 skill points rule per D&D. (Albeit that I think PC's are a 'cut
above', I've just never been one for having people picking up the full use
of a language willy-nilly.)
 

Bregales

Mongoose
Boreas said:
Maximo - thanks for the nice words!

Ummm, I'm good with PC's (or NPC's for that matter) picking up more than
just 'a few spoken words' if they hang around in any one area long enough, & would tend to 'create' this via ongoing description of various events during
gameplay.

If, however, somebody wishes to learn more than speaking in the short term,
I'll use the 2 skill points rule per D&D. (Albeit that I think PC's are a 'cut
above', I've just never been one for having people picking up the full use
of a language willy-nilly.)
That's an interesting idea I've been reading on these boards. I think I 'casually' use this idea for most NPCs anyways, as I've kept with commoners being illiterate.

I tend to keep in mind an old idea from the TSR Conan game (I think) and Feng Shui, that I've used when I used to GM West End's Star Wars rpg (still upset for Lucas for ruining Star Wars IMO, can't pick up that game again), Pendragon, and DnD: I simply consider NPCs as one of two types: Mooks and Villains. Mooks are the armies, typical NPCs, and goons, whereas Villains are made on a par with or above the PCs. When I have a Villain for a game (for example, Tretankmun, Akriphon's former mentor whom the player Sorcerer betrayed a few adventures ago), has been fully fleshed out for that fateful day when the PC meets up/goes against his former master. But almost all other NPCs are simplified using the ideas expressed here, are more simplified. ~~To simplifiy things: I let mook NPCs have UP TO THE NUMBER of languages for their NPC level, but they don't read unless I decide they'd spend skill points to do so (scholars, nobles), and usually specify which languages if I decide I need to. Whereas Villains are made up fully.

Don't know if this will help or not. :oops: :D
 

Boreas

Mongoose
:D Sorry Bregales, by NPC's I was specifically referring to ones
adventuring with the PC's. All other NPC's I treat the same as
you have described. I should have been more specific... :D
 
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